“I’ve got a score to settle with Le Mans”: riders ready to saddle up in Sarthe
Bagnaia, Quartararo, Zarco, Miller, Morbidelli and Nakagami gear up for a mixed weekend at Le Mans
Thursday, 13 May 2021
It’s that time of week again: pre-event Press Conference time! Ahead of the SHARK Grand Prix de France, new Championship leader Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) was joined by home heroes Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing), as well as Jerez winner Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team), Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) to look back at Jerez and forward to what could be a mixed weekend of weather at Le Mans…
Here are some key quotes:
Francesco Bagnaia: “I’m the leader for just 10 days so I don’t know. It’s good, it’s nice but we have only done four races so it’s too soon to think about it. We just thinking race by race, this is a track that I like. I did three podiums here, one in Moto3 and a victory and second in Moto2 and it’s a track that suits our bike very well. I’m prepared to ride here but we need to see the weather forecast, because it looks like it will be rain and in the wet I’ve done just six races, I think, in all categories in MotoGP, so let’s wait. Last year I struggled in the second part of the race, after 12/13 laps because at the start I started well but I was behind, then I recovered positions to 8th, 9th and then they came back. In the wet our bike is very strong, but it’s not easy with these tyres because they give you a lot of grip and it’s not easy to manage.
“I think that all three of us Ducati riders will be hoping that in every track it will be good. It’s difficult to predict a race in the wet, we have to wait until Sunday to see if we can be as competitive as Jerez. But I think our bike can be very suited to all the tracks, now we can ride it in a different way and different styles and it works very well, so I think we can be very strong this year.”
Fabio Quartararo: “It was pretty frustrating during the race and you have the pace to do it, but you don’t have the power. Every single lap you have more difficulties to brake until the moment you just have normal power. There was still more than 10 laps remaining. The first moment was losing the opportunity to win, but then it was just trying to finish the race in the points. So it was the right time to have a second surgery on the arm. I’m feeling great, the scar is stretching a little bit. I can’t wait for tomorrow to ride. I’m feeling great and I don’t think there will be any issues while riding.
“I’m really looking forward to testing the bike in the wet. Last year was a little bit strange because the really wet conditions, we only really had it on the Sunday, also FP1, but yeah. I’m feeling great in the dry conditions in every single track so I’m excited to test it in the wet, I hope it’s working as, you know, two years ago I was always feeling really good with the bike. I think this feeling is going to be well, a great opportunity to ride in the wet, not just in one session but for all the weekend. And yeah, just want to take as much experience as I can and to do my best.”
Johann Zarco: “In Jerez I got a few points, and it was good enough for me, but with the high potential of the Ducati, and the victory of Jack, the second place of Pecco in Jerez, the leadership of Pecco, it really gives high motivation also to do a great result here in France. As Pecco says the tracks fit the bike well here, or better than Jerez. In Jerez, the pace was interesting of the Ducati, so I’m pretty happy to have this package with me. We don’t have the fans, we are used to almost, and it’s on some side sad, because less funny things around the track but to stay focused and almost get the weekend as a normal weekend, that’s pretty good so for the work and for the target to be on podium, it can help.
“I think it would be nice to share a podium if we have the possibility, all three together. Anyway from the beginning of the season we could see that we could be at the top of the race, but the beginning was I could stay in front and then it was Pecco and Jack, and we still did not share it all together and that would be just awesome for Ducati and good for us also because as we can see we have, I think good spirit together, and this gives good motivation so just cross fingers to get it.”
Jack Miller: “It’s a whole mix of everything you know, relief, but also it makes you more eager for the next one. At the end of the day, bike racers we’re always looking for what’s next and what we can try to do more, you know, we always want more so for sure just looking at coming here and trying to do a strong weekend like we did in Spain. I mean it’s been a pretty calm week to be honest, I’ve just stuck to what we’ve been doing the last few and just been training and doing what I can. Thankfully there was some decent weather in Spain and Andorra over the week and I was able to get out on the bicycle but doesn’t look like we will have much of that this weekend! I think we’re prepared for all conditions that are coming this weekend. I’ve been known to be pretty good in the wet so if that comes it comes, I feel like I’ve got a score to settle with Le Mans, you know after last year.
“You know I have a kind of love-hate relationship with France, with Le Mans especially. I’ve had a win here in Moto3™, but I nearly died here at Turn 1, and then last year I did feel like I died as well, when the bike cut out with like seven to go! I think we’ve got a good package as the boys said, we’ve all been there or thereabout, I think whether it comes in Le Mans, I think it would be better in Mugello, but I think we have a good chance of locking out the podium!”
Morbidelli spoke next, first on his emotional reaction to his podium in Jerez.
Franco Morbidelli: “First of all because it’s a MotoGP podium. And then because of what we’re going through. That podium had a different taste for sure, it felt great. I burst after the chequered flag, I think it’s because of a really big emotion gathering, and after a good result everything comes out.
“My expectations were already reassessed from Qatar 1 and 2. I immediately realised that I needed to step it up again if I wanted to remain in a similar position to last year. That’s what I’m trying to do and that’s what we did in Portimao and Jerez. So I hope to keep on doing that and keep on working at the best with my crew, to enjoy racing, be the best I can and try to improve whenever I can.”
Takaaki Nakagami: “From the Qatar test, we were not with the best performance and we struggled in Qatar, Race 1 and Race 2, and also in Portimão, the big crash on Friday and you know, we couldn’t find the solution. On Sunday in Portimão, from the last position, we were able to finish in top ten. This is a really important result for us, and after that, I started to think about, you know, I can find a solution for not the best of the best, but you know maybe we can fight for the top five or top six again. Then in Jerez, from Friday, we found the pace and had a good race so I’m pretty happy you know, to get really close to the podium, you know, P4 which is a really great result for us and I’m looking forward to this weekend too.”
This is also the first time in some time there have been five riders giving feedback to HRC…
“You know one more rider will be good, you know, there will be more data and good to help develop the bike easily, more comments and, you know, for HRC, I think also for us, for the riders, it is really good to understand you know, not lose the way. We try to pick up positive comments for all of the riders and you know it helps a lot to develop, and now looks like we found a way and pretty comfortable on the new bikes.”
That’s a wrap on Thursday, tune in for Free Practice and qualifying before the lights go out for the race at 14:00 (GMT +2).